Guest Notes for Episode 495: An Epic French Road Trip with a Yorkie

Category: Family Travel

Discussed in this Episode

  • Paris
  • Metz
  • Strasbourg
  • Amboise
  • Avignon
  • Arles
  • Nîmes
  • Saint-Tropez
  • Cannes
  • Nice
  • Carcassonne
  • Bordeaux
  • Saint-Emilion
  • Mont Saint-Michel
  • Giverny

Kathy, Pocket and Me Or how we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary

 By Richard Miller

 The Plan

We began planning this trip in 2021.  At that time, the trip was a vacation to France.  Both Kathy and I had already been to France.  Those trips were to Paris with one trip to Normandy.    My mother’s family came from France (Metz) so seeing the whole country was appealing and we had the time to do it.  Then COVID and life got in the way and the trip was postponed.  In early 2023, we began to think about going to Europe again.  After a lot of thinking and, probably, more than 200 hours of planning, the trip was solidified.

The 2021 plan was to fly into Paris and then travel around, literally around, France in a counterclockwise direction and end up back in Paris 30 days later.  Plane tickets were purchased, hotels reserved and tickets for venues were in hand.  Then the trip didn’t happen.  We were able to cancel everything, and we were issued credit for the plane tickets.

When we checked on our airline credit in January 2023, we discovered that the credit would expire on April 30, 2023.  That gave us a sense of urgency to get the trip planned and get going.   I had our 2021 tip itinerary so that would serve as a foundation for our 2023 trip.  Being retired, we had a lot of flexibility regarding how long the trip would take.  The most important factor was that we had to leave before April 30.

There were a couple of big differences between the 2021 plan and the 2023 plan.  First, we are now taking our dog Pocket.  Pocket is our 14-year-old Yorkie.  Second, France was having protests related to changes in the age of retirement.  The most severe protests were occurring in Paris.  So, the plan would be to postpone the visit to Paris until the protests subsided.

Here are things we considered

Taking Pocket

In order to take a pet to Europe, it is necessary to have a health certificate from the United States Department of Agriculture.   The animal must be chipped, be up to date with all shots and be examined by a USDA approved veterinarian to make sure the animal is in good health for travel.  Pocket had a microchip implanted in 2021 when we planned that trip.    She was up to date with her shots and when I asked our regular vet about the health certificate, I found out that not all vets are USDA-approved for submitting the paperwork to the USDA.  The USDA has a website for taking animals abroad.  There are different requirements for pets and animals traveling for commercial purposes.  The website also has a list of approved vets.  Locating an approved vet in a particular area is easy.    I found one close to where we live and made an appointment.  The cost of the (very brief) examination and submitting the paperwork to the government was $380.  The form that is submitted to the USDA asks for where you will be traveling and an address in that country.  The Health Certificate must be issued within ten days of travel.  We also planned to get a Pet Passport for Pocket in France.


The next consideration for traveling with Pocket internationally was the airline.  Not all airlines permit animals in the cabin.  We would never put pocket in the hold.  Next, some airlines put a limit on the number of in-cabin pets on certain flights.  Pocket has flown before and is a good traveler.  We have an airline approved carrier for her that fits under the seat in front of me.


Taking Pocket affected the hotels we chose since not all hotels are pet friendly.  We use websites like Expedia and Trip Advisor to choose hotels   Most websites have a filter that narrows the selection to pet friendly hotels.  We have found that not all information on websites is correct.  So even though a website might indicate a hotel is pet friendly, it is always a good idea to call the hotel to make sure.  It is also important to inquire about pet fees.  This can vary wildely.

Even with the Health Certificate, it is a good idea to take all your pet’s medical records with you.  You must have the microchip ID number and the date it was inplanted.


There are a ton of YouTube videos on traveling – anywhere.  You can find out about countries, cities, hotels, subways, museums, things to do, things to avoid, etc.  If you can name it, you can find a YouTube video about it.  I spent a lot of time on YouTube videos.

Google:  you can get information on anything.  You can get a map of anywhere.

Aggregators:  Trip Advisor, Expedia/Travelocity, Booking etc.  READ THE REVIEWS.  Before booking a hotel, the wise traveler will read reviews on at least two different sites.  If two people are traveling, then they should both read reviews.  After you stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant or go on a tour, write a review.  Your honest review will help future travelers.

I like podcasts and Kathy doesn’t.  I found one podcast that I found particularly helpful.  It is called Join Us in France.  The host, Annie Sargent, specializes in visiting France, the history of France and anything about France.   Since she has been doing these podcasts for several years, she has hundreds of shows that discuss many different topics such as train travel, customs, specific cities and a lot more.   One of the services she provides is itinerary assistance.  More on that later.

Language and Customs

Kathy and I studied French in high school and college.  We felt it was important to speak some French.  We wanted to be able to order food, ask for directions and be polite.  Both Kathy and I started studying French on the Duolingo app.  Duolingo is good for learning the basics of a language.  If you practice enough, you will learn a lot of words, be able to read most signs, speak enough to be understood and be able to understand slow-spoken French.  Duolingo will never teach you how to understand fast spoken French.  So now, according to Duolingo, I know 6,000 French words, some of which actually came in handy.

YouTube:  there are a lot of people on You Tube you will give you some exposure to a language.  French has several, some are good and some are not so good.  I was interested in learning some slang and “everyday” phrases.  There are videos that discuss customs.

We watched French television shows on Netflix.  A couple of our favorites are Dix Percent and Candice Renoir.  Those helped tune our ears to the rhythm of the language.  And we enjoyed them.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of being sensitive to French customs.  Always say “Bonjour” when approaching someone (unless it’s after 6:00pm/18:00 or 7:00pm/19:00 when that changes to “Bonsoir”).  If you don’t, the other person will be offended.  It’s their custom to begin an interaction with bonjour.  Say “merci” when someone has helped you.  I always began talking with someone in French.  If they spoke English, they would always change the conversation to English because their English was better than my French.

France uses military time.  Just do it.


I bought some euros before leaving.  In reality everything can be purchased on a debit card.  “Contactless” payment is the thing.  I did not make any special arrangement with my bank.


I found the following apps to be helpful:

Delta Airline

Air France

Tiqets – for booking tours.

VoiceMap – for audio tours

Waze – for driving directions.

Citymapper – great for walking around cities

Rome2Rio – travel and transportation options

Trainline – for booking train rides.  We used Trainline for two trains in France and used it extensively in the UK.  I also purchased a Two Together discount card which saved us money.

Rover – for dog sitting.


Take plenty of power adapters.  With several devices like phones, chargers, ear pods, computers, etc. It is a good idea to have one for each. Also know that the adapters in the UK are different than France.

When out and about, take a backup phone charger.  Using a phone for directions uses a lot of power.

Check with your phone carrier and know their policy and charges for traveling abroad.  We have T-Mobile and the coverage was very good.

If you are driving, know what the road signs mean.  French signs are different than in the US.

The Itinerary

Airlines, and probably all companies, have different levels of customer service.  There is the basic customer service for someone who has an easy question or wants to book something simple.  For more complicated itineraries, you have to talk to someone else.  Since we were using a credit from almost two years ago and we were bringing our dog, we had to reach the highest level of customer service.  That took a lot of patience, persistence and time.  Finally, we reached someone who was helpful and could make a decision.  The flights that were the most convenient and least additional cost, were in and out of Paris.  So we knew we had to fly into Paris before April 30 and return to the US from Paris.

We considered traveling by train in France.  Because of some of the locations we wanted to see and because we would be traveling with Pocket along with enough luggage to hold weeks of clothing, we decided to rent a car and drive.  Anyone considering traveling through France by train should listen to the Join Us in France podcasts on train travel.  We wanted to rent a car from a company with a recognized brand.  I can drive a manual transmission and we wanted GPS.  So, I rented from Hertz and bought the complete insurance coverage.

Since our time was flexible, we considered adding other countries to our itinerary.  We considered driving from Strasbourg to Nice through Switzerland and Italy.  We considered going to Spain and Portugal after France. Since 2023 is the year of our 50th wedding anniversary we wanted to include something special to celebrate.  In the end we decided that we wanted to be in Scotland on the day of our anniversary.  So, after our tour of France, we would go to the UK and then return to Paris for the Paris visit and then our return to the US.

Going to the UK presented two more Pocket issues.  The UK requires that a dog receive a worm treatment within five days of entering the UK.  So, we had to know where we would be within five days of going to the UK and then locate a veterinarian who could administer the worm treatment to comply with the UK requirements.  We could not find an airline that would fly Pocket in the cabin to the UK.  Strangely, we found that Air France would fly her from the UK to France in the cabin (no problem) but not the other way around.  After much googling we found a service that would take all three of us in a car through the Channel from France to the UK.

We scheduled an itinerary consultation with Annie Sargent and asked her to concentrate on specific areas of France.  Part of her service is an hour-long phone call so she can find out our interests.  We asked her to concentrate on Paris, the Loire Valley and Nice.  The day after the phone call, we received a 150-page document from Annie not only covering the areas we talked about but additional information on traveling in France.

So, after all the YouTube videos, Googling, podcasts and consultations, we came up with the following general itinerary:

Fly into Paris


Loire Valley


St. Tropez






Mont Sant Michel











It was time to put meat on the bones.  Where to stay?  What do we want to see in each of these locations?  It is also important to know about holidays.  On big national holidays, hotels are more expensive, venues will either be very crowded or closed and restaurants may be closed.

Kathy and I spent countless hours looking at hotels.  We filtered on price, dog-friendly, location and, above all, reviews. I looked at countless YouTube videos to decide what we wanted to see in every location.

Before we left, we had:

Plane reservation to and from Paris

Hotel reservations in every city

Car reserved.

Health Certificate for Pocket

Veterinary appointment in Strasbourg

Transportation to and from the UK

The Departure

Kathy, Pocket and I took an Uber to the airport.  When we checked in, Pocket’s Health Certifcate was checked.  We paid $200 for the pet fee.  Our luggage was checked through to Paris. Kathy and I each had carry-ons plus we had Pocket.  I had to carry Pocket through security while her bag went through the x-ray machine. Pocket knows the drill.  As soon as her bag was cleared, she jumped back in her bag and I zipped her up. When we boarded the plane, I slipped her bag under the seat in front of me.  Pocket is a very quiet traveler.  No one knew that we had a dog.    We connected though Atlanta.  It was necessary to change terminals in Atlanta and we didn’t have much time.  The ATL to CDG flight was boarding by the time we got to the gate.

The plane left on time.    We had the usual airplane food.  I had one glass of wine because I thought it would help me rest, but I was unable to rest.  I watched the movie, Inglorious Basterds, which is one of my favorite movies.


We landed at CDG at 6:00am.  Immigration and customs went very quickly.  In fact, the process was so fast that we got to the Hertz counter one and a half hours earlier than I told them I would pick up the car.  The car I reserved was not available, so we were upgraded to a Citroen SUV with automatic transmission and navigation.  The Citroen SUV turned out to be a mixed blessing.  It was new, large and very comfortable but it would be difficult to park in most of the tight French parking spaces.


Kathy connected her phone to the car and Apple Car Play came on the screen.  We were able to connect to Waze.  Waze not only worked in big cities and autoroutes, but it also worked in every town and village we drove through.  Getting driving directions from Waze was great.  It alerted us to traffic circles as well as which exit to take out of each circle.  We were able to connect to Sirius XM and listen to music and news.

From CDG, we drove east.  Our first stop was Metz.  My mother’s relatives came from Metz and I have always wanted to go there.  During our car trips, Kathy and I like to listen to books.  From Paris to Strasbourg to Amboise, we listened to City of Dreams by Don Winslow.  We passed miles of bright yellow rapeseed fields.  They are very beautiful this time of year. This must be big business in this part of France.

Note:  Tolls on French autoroutes are expensive.  But the roads are in great shape and there are frequent service areas.  A sign that says “Peage” indicates you are entering a toll road.  Most of the time, you pick up a ticket at one end and pay when exiting.  Payment is by contactless card.  The Rome2Rio app is a good resource to estimate the cost of tolls.


Metz is located on the Moselle River about an hour and a half west of Strasbourg.  It is bigger than I thought it would be.  We parked in an underground parking garage and walked to the cathedral.  When we got to the cathedral, we noticed a cute little train that gave tours of the city.  (We would later find out that many cities have a similar train that gives tours.)  The tour cost €9  per person (Pocket was free), would last one hour and was offered in ten languages.  This was a good way to find out about Metz.  We learned about the history of Metz and how this part of France used to be part of Germany and then reverted pack to France after World War I.  We saw a statue of Lafayette, the university and flowers just beginning to bloom.  After an hour the train dropped us off back at the cathedral.  We wanted to go inside the cathedral, but Pocket couldn’t go in.  So, Kathy went in first while I watched Pocket and then I went inside while Kathy watched Pocket.  We asked the visitor center for directions to a pet-friendly restaurant in the area.  It was a cool day, so we found a restaurant named Birstrot de G that allowed us to take Pocket inside.   We chose two of the daily specials which were displayed on the chalk board.  The food was very good but one of the sides puzzled us.  While it was tasty, we could not agree on what it was.  We asked our server and found out it was pureed celery.  Neither of us guessed that.  It was definitely delicious and we would eat it again.

After lunch we walked back to the car and headed to Strasbourg.


Hotel    Hotel D

15 Rue du Fosse des Treize

What we liked about the hotel:  the hotel staff was amazing; location; room size

What we didn’t like:  our room was a little dark – it needed brighter lights or more colorful décor

Hotel D is located across the street from the Palais de Justice.  It is a fifteen-minute walk to the cathedral and Place Kleber and twenty minutes from Petite France.  The parking garage is attached to the hotel.  Parking was tight because of our big car.  Our room had more than enough room for two adults and a dog.  There was an alcove with a day bed that Pocket claimed as hers.  The decorations were modern and there was plenty of room in the bathroom.  We ate breakfast in the hotel every morning.  There was a wide variety of breads, cereals, meats, cheeses, juice and coffees.

I asked the front desk for a restaurant recommendation.  The receptionist gave us a map (I hate maps that hotels give out) and suggested an Alsatian restaurant near the cathedral.  We walked past several upscale shops between the hotel and the cathedral.  Le Gurlerhoft is located in the basement of a building.  We ordered the 3-course special.  The sausage, the sauerkraut, the potatoes and the rhubarb pie were all great. With two glasses of gewurztraminer the bill was 70 euros.  We enjoyed the energy of the restaurant, and the service was prompt.

After a good night’s sleep, we walked to a pet store named Club Croquette.  We bought a doggy backpack, some dog food and some dog treats.  The lady at the pet store agreed to hold onto our purchases while we shopped and explored.

We walked to Galleries Lafayette. While Kathy shopped, Pocket and I walked to Place Kleber and found an antique book market. Then we went to a bookstore and I bought the Stephen King novel Salem in French for our son Mike. Kathy was very successful and purchased tops, a sweater and a scarf.   I walked back to the hotel and dropped off Pocket and the packages.

Kathy and I walked to La Petite France.  The weather was perfect and we ate outside at La Corde a Linge (the laundry line).  The restaurant is on one of the La Petite France canals.  We ordered meatballs covered in mustard sauce, sauerkraut and spaetzle.  I had a German beer, Fletcher pale blond.   The food was excellent.  I loved the German architecture in La Petite France.

We went shopping again at Galleries Lafayette.  This time I bought a blazer, a shirt and scarf, so I could look more French.  We took our receipts to the third floor to get the VAT tax reimbursement forms.  We walked back to the hotel around 19:00.

The next day we walked Pocket to Starbucks in Place Kleber.  Dogs are allowed inside so we stayed and enjoyed cappuccinos. It looked like rain, so I walked to Place Kleber and bought an umbrella for €5.   We walked back to the hotel and had breakfast.  Instead of doing the little train in Strasbourg (like we had done in Metz), we decided to do the tour boat.  We walked to the Batorama ticket booth and bought tickets for the next boat.  The boat dock was a little hard to find but we made it in time.  It was just starting to rain when we got on the boat.  Fortunately, the boat had a glass top. The boat had headphones providing information in multiple languages. The couple sitting behind us really liked Pocket and that started a Franglish conversation.  During our trip, Pocket allowed us to meet lots of adults and children.  I liked going through the locks on the canal.  We had a good view of La Petite France from the canal and we also saw the new part of the city.  This city has a lot of German influence because it was part of Germany between the Franco-Prussian war and World War I and again during World War II.

After the boat ride, we walked back to La Petite France for photos.  We went back to Starbucks in Place Kleber.  Kathy and Pocket stayed there while I walked back to the hotel to get Pocket’s paperwork for the veterinarian appointment.  The walk to the vets was longer than I thought, and it rained steadily.  The vet I chose was Veterinaire des Halles located at 28 rue rue du Faubourg-de-Saverne.  Our vet was a young woman who was serious and thorough.  She spoke good English so there was no communication problem.  Pocket received her European Union passport.  On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at a brasserie along one of the streets.  I ate a chicken sandwich with fries.  It was a satisfying but average meal.

Note on fries in France:  the fries are very good.  Generally, one order of fries comes in a basket, often a metal basket, and would feed a family of eight.  I don’t think I ever finished an order of fries in France.

We walked back to the hotel and rested – after 20,000 steps that day.

Later, we decided we were hungry, so we walked down the street from the hotel to a restaurant on the corner, Brasserie au Tribunal.  The proprietor was very friendly but spoke almost no English.  He was very excited that I spoke a little French and gave us super service.  The food was good, the wine was good, and the company was good.  When we got back to our room, Pocket was asleep on our bed.

First thing the next morning, we (without Pocket) walked to the cathedral.  The church is huge with impressive stained-glass windows.  We saw the astronomical clock but didn’t see it operate.

When we got back to the hotel the breakfast area was crowded, unlike the other days that we were there.  I packed the car and we got on the road at 11:15 heading to Amboise.  I made two stops for gazole.  At the first station, I didn’t know how much to prepay.  I bought  €25 of gazole and then stopped later for another  €20.

We drove past more rapeseed fields whichreally light up the countryside.  At one of the fuel stops along the autoroute we bought sandwiches.  Because it was too cool to eat at a picnic table, we decided to eat in the car.

Note regarding gas stations and rest stops:  autoroutes have service stations every 20 to 40 km.  You can buy gas, diesel (gazole) and charge your electric vehicle.  The restrooms are clean. Food can be purchased.   Depending on what time of day, hot food may be available.  We even found one service area that had a buffet.  Some have picnic tables.  Some stations require prepayment for fuel while others have pay at the pump.  There are also rest stops that have rest rooms and picnic tables but no fuel or food.  I don’t think I ever saw a gas station in a small town, so I tried to keep the tank full when on the autoroute.  I was able to find fuel in larger towns and cities at Leclerc stores.  Leclerc is like a Super Target with a gas station.

Note regarding charging electric vehicles:  we saw charging stations everywhere.  Every service area along an autoroute had eight or ten charging stations.  Hotels had charging stations.  Parking garages had charging stations with preferred parking spots.

Note regarding distribution centers along autoroutes:  along our 2000 miles drive through France, we saw many huge, new distribution centers.  I was impressed.


We arrived in Amboise at 18:30. Amboise is located along the Loire River just east of Tours.  Hotel Le Choiseul is located on D751 across the street from the river.

Hotel    Hotel Le Choiseul

36 Quai Charles Guinot

What we liked about the hotel:  room size – we had a lot of space; the bed was very comfortable; location – easy to walk to town and the Amboise Chateau.

What we didn’t like:  it would be nice if the bathroom fixtures were more modern; the Wi-Fi was weak – sometimes you had Wi-Fi, sometimes you didn’t.

The hotel has a lot of charm.  It is composed of several buildings built in the 1700s.  I went to the reception desk to check in.  The restaurant was located near the desk.  I could tell it was a upscale place because the staff was dressed nicely – men in suits and women in dresses.  Since I was wearing jeans, I asked if there was a dress code.  The response was “No Hawaiian shirts.”  I wasn’t wearing a Hawaiian shirt; maybe he thinks all Americans wear Hawaiian shirts.  Anyway, I made reservations for 20:00.

The hotel provided help unloading the car and carrying our luggage to our room, which was located in a different building.  Our room had its own private courtyard with a table and chairs, an entry foyer with closets and a refrigerator, a large bedroom and a bathroom.  The décor was definitely French.  Maybe not my style but very dramatic.

We ate at the hotel restaurant that evening.  We chose the 4-course meal option.  It was a very fine meal and the price to match.  We probably went overboard on this meal, but it was very good.

There were plenty of grassy areas to walk Pocket.  She is enjoying all the new smells.  Kathy, Pocket and I walked to the town of Amboise which sits below the Amboise chateau.  We found a boulangerie named Bigot.  It was crowded but we found an outside table.  We had a French press, orange juice (which was very good) and croissants.  From where we were sitting, we had a good view of the entrance to the chateau and the shops and other restaurants in Amboise.  After breakfast, we returned to the hotel and changed clothes for the rest of the day.

I purchased tickets to visit the castle on the Tiqets app.  The walk to the chateau is only ten minutes.  Dogs are permitted in the chateau, so we put Pocket in her new backpack.  The chateau sits on a cliff above the town and the river.  There is a ramp that goes up to the chateau making the walk tolerable.   We were given a tablet to carry around that explained what we were seeing.   The chateau dates back to the 11th century. Many of the rooms have been restored with nice furniture and clothing.  The gardens are very pretty.  Leonardo da Vinci is supposed to be buried in the Chapel of Saint Hubert, which is part of the Amboise chateau.  However, this building was undergoing renovation and we could not go in.  A sign on the fence that surrounded the Chapel indicated that the renovation would take another year and a half.   Pocket made friends with many of the children who were visiting the chateau.   We spent two hours at the chateau and that was plenty of time.

As you exit the chateau, the street is lined with restaurants.  We chose one so we could sit outside with Pocket.  By this time the weather had warmed, and I took off my jacket.  We had hamburgers and (lots of) fries.   When we walked back to the hotel, I sat in our private garden and did two drawings.

Our next tour was at Chateau du Clos Luce.  The Chateau du Clos Luce is a residence given to Leonardo da Vinci by Francois I. This chateau is another 10-minute walk beyond the Amboise chateau.  Da Vinci lived at Clos Luce for 3 years and died there is in 1519.  The house is in great shape.  It has been restored to look like it did when da Vinci lived there.  One room looks like his art studio with an area where he would mix his own paints.  In the grounds around the chateau, several of da Vinci’s inventions have been built.  Children can play on them.  The conservators of the Chateau du Clos Luce have done an excellent job of maintaining this property and making it interesting to visitors of all ages.  Our walk around the grounds was peaceful and well worth the time.

We ate pizza in town that evening and had ice cream for dessert.  The crowd in town that evening was very lively.

The next day I bought tickets online for Chambord.  Turns out that this day was a national holiday.  Our favorite boulangerie only had food for take away. We had coffee, an apple turnover and a pain au chocolat.   Pocket was running low on food, so we drove across the river and found an Aldi, but it was closed because of the holiday.

We drove to Chambord using the Waze app.  The drive along the Loire river was very pretty and we went through several small towns.  The towns were very quiet, maybe because it was a holiday.  Waze provided good directions and we did not run into any traffic until we went through the gates of the chateau.  It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that everybody and their brother was at Chambord that day.  There was plenty of help directing traffic and we parked in a grassy field within site of the chateau.

The chateau is overwhelming in size and grandeur.  We found out that it was built to be overwhelming.  Scaffolds covered several of the towers as the chateau was undergoing renovation.  Dogs are not allowed inside the chateau so Kathy and I took turns going inside.

Since this was a national holiday, a flea market (marche aux puces) was set up in the grounds around the chateau.  Big is not an adequate word to describe the size of the flea market.  At least I had plenty to look at while Kathy was in Chambord.  People were even buying big things like chairs and tables.  I guess they came prepared with a vehicle to transport something like that.  I saw frames for paintings that I liked but I did not have a way to get them home.

When it was my turn to go inside Chambord and I had an opportunity to see the chateau up close, I could tell that renovation was needed.  The repair of such a large building must be continuous.  The fireplaces, staircases and room layout are engineering and architectural marvels.  I liked the royal chambers the best.  Kathy liked the royal carriages.  The gardens were good but not as impressive as others we have visited.

Upon returning to Amboise, we ate pizza at one of the outdoor restaurants on the square.

The next day we drove back to the Aldi.  A gentleman was just leaving the store and he let us use his basket, so we didn’t have to pay for it.  I asked a clerk (in French) for dog products and she pointed to a big sign near the front of the store that said “Animeaux.”  Pet supplies cost about 1/3 as much as the United States.  We found this to be true everywhere in France.  Even the veterinary visits were much cheaper.  In addition to the pet products, we also bought pastries, juice and water. We noticed that a dozen eggs cost €2.  Now that’s a good deal.   Kathy wanted coffee so we put McDonalds into Waze and headed that direction.

When we got to McDonalds, we found a big Leclerc store.  Kathy went in and bought cappuccinos and more dog treats.  I bought gazole at the Leclerc.  From then on, we would always look for a Leclerc for groceries and fuel.

With a full tank in our SUV, we headed toward Avignon.  I was surprised to see all the industrial sites.  We stopped along the way to give Pocket a break at one the picnic areas.  These are well maintained.   It was very windy.  I noticed the wind as I was driving you could see the trees swaying in the wind.   A little later we stopped for lunch and ate at a buffet.  It wasn’t bad for gas station food.  We had lasagna and potato salad. We were not sure what to do with our trays and plates so we watched as other people took their trays to the “Merci” cart.  A couple sitting next to us had arrived on a motorcycle and also had a small dog.  Their dog traveled in a bag on the motorcycle.  Before leaving the restaurant, we walked to the coffee shop and got cappuccinos and cookies for the road.

We finished listening to City of Dreams as we got into Amboise.  So, the next book was The Maid’s Diary by Loreth Anne White.


We arrived in Avignon at 18:00, which was rush hour.  The traffic was bumper to bumper getting to our hotel, the Avignon Grand.  Parking was in an underground public garage with an elevator that connected to the hotel.

Hotel    Avignon Grand

34 Boulevard Saint Roch

What we liked about the hotel: size of the room; bathtub and shower in bathroom; location.

What we didn’t like: no air conditioning

The hotel is directly across from the main gate of the old city wall.  We got a garden room which means it is on the first floor and has a sliding glass door that opens onto a garden area.  This is perfect for Pocket.  There was a table with chairs outside our sliding glass door but we never used it.  The room was large by European standards. There was a large sitting area with a couch, table, TV, mini-fridge and table and chairs.  There was a separate bedroom with another TV.  The bathroom had both a shower and a tub.  The hotel had a laundry service for €15 per bag.  We already accumulated two bags of laundry.  Our room was always warm.  When I asked the front desk about the air conditioning, I was told that they had not switched their system over to the summer setting yet.  This explanation seemed a little fishy to me.

After unpacking a little, we walked to the old town to eat.  We stopped at O’Collin Irish Pub.  The food was terrible.  Who ever heard of peanut butter on a chicken sandwich?  I gave them a bad review on Trip Advisor.

The next morning, we at breakfast at the hotel and discovered you must get there early to get the best and most fresh selection.  We gave our laundry bags to the front desk at 9:00 and we were told the clean laundry would be back in our room by 15:00.

The three of us took an easy 15-minute walk to the Palais des Papes.  The Palais does not allow dogs, so this was another venue that Kathy and I did separately.  While I was in the Palais, Kathy found one of those little tour trains. While Kathy was on the tour, I looked at paintings that local artists exhibited in the courtyard outside the Palais.  I liked talking to artists about their work.

Both Kathy and I found it disturbing how greedy the Catholic Church was throughout history.  The popes took advantage of poor people for their own personal benefit.  One pope spent 40% of his income on war.  There were many hidden areas underneath the floors of the Palais where popes would stash their money and valuables.  The Palais like other chateaus we visited was undergoing renovation.  We also walked around the grounds and saw amazing views of the city and countryside.

After the Palais, we ate lunch at a place called La Forchette at 17 rue Racine.  What an amazing meal!  The restaurant is dog friendly so that was good for us.  We had the three-course dejeuner special.  I had a pate entrée, fish main course and tiramisu.  Service was great.  This was one of the top three meals we had on our trip.

As we walked back to the hotel, we window shopped but didn’t buy anything.  At the hotel, we rested.  We were not hungry for dinner, so we had hummus and wine at the hotel bar.  The day was warm and sunny.  78F (25.5C) felt hot.

The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant which was much more crowded at 8:00.  This restaurant had the same orange juice machine as one of our favorite restaurants in Florida.  Fresh squeezed is always better.  Kathy, Pocket and I walked to the underground garage and left for the day.

Our first stop was Pont du Gard.  Even though admission is free, parking costs €9.   The museum and theater looked new and cost extra.  And, of course, there were many school groups there.  The bridge is magnificent.  The entire aqueduct took 10 to 15 years to build, and the bridge alone took 5 years to build.  This is another example of outstanding Roman engineering.  We were surprised that we could walk right up and touch the stonework and see the Latin inscriptions that were done 2000 years ago.  One hour was plenty to soak up the history.

Then off to Nimes.  Waze took us by the back roads.  The streets were very narrow.  At one point I had to drive up on the sidewalk to get around a parked car.  We finally found a public lot and parked on the 4th level.  We walked to the L’horloge (clock) square for lunch at one of the restaurants with outdoor seating.  I ate steak frites and Kathy had a quiche.  Lunch was just okay.  The walk from the square to the Nimes colosseum, the Arena, was about 10 minutes.  This is another impressive Roman structure.  I bought tickets for the Arena and the Maison Carree.  The audio tour was helpful to understand the Arena and the gameswhich were held inside.  The day we were there, a crew was setting up for a demonstration of games.  We walked around the entire Arena even getting lost once.  It was a sunny and hot day so climbing up and down the steps in the Arena was exhausting.  From the Arena we walked to the Maison Carree.  This was a very well-preserved building that was the center of the Roman forum for Nimes.  It was interesting but only took 10 minutes to go through.

We returned to Avignon retracing the same route that Waze took us earlier.  I asked the front desk of the hotel for a pizza recommendation.  He told us about Le Pili and gave us a map.  It was located in the old city in a part of town that we had not been to yet.  We ordered salads, pizza and a bottle of wine.  The salads were good, the pizza was great and the wine was needed.  I highly recommend Le Pili if you’re in Avignon and looking for pizza.  After drinking the entire bottle of wine, we somehow made it back to the hotel and to bed.

We had breakfast at the hotel, packed our bags and hit the road.  I wanted to go to Arles because Van Gogh lived there and created some of his most famous paintings there.  Waze directed us via back roads again.  We had a little trouble finding a place to park but found a public lot next to the police station.  The Van Gogh foundation does not allow dogs, so Kathy and I visited separately.  The streets of Arles are like a maze but I finally found the Van Gogh Foundation.  There were more children’s groups for this venue.  There was only one Van Gogh painting.  In the rest of the building there was an exhibition of drawings.  There were drawings from Victor Hugo, Marcel, Bascoulard, Aloise and Jean Raine.  I was a little disappointed with the Van Gogh Foundation.  Admission was only €3 and I saw everything in about an hour.

Kathy and I had lunch at Cuit Cuit, one of the dozens of street side cafes along the dozens of winding streets.  We ate burgers and I had a beer.  Lunch was €43.  We talked to some other Americans who were at a table beside us.  After lunch, we walked to the Arles Amphitheater but didn’t go in.  How many Roman amphitheaters do you need to see?

We walked back to the car and headed to Aix-en-Provence.  As we neared Aix, Kathy commented that she though Provence would be flat and said she thought the area looked like New Mexico or Arizona.  I thought it looked like Southern California.


The area is bigger and more populated than I thought.  Our hotel, the Birdy, is on the outskirts of Aix about 15 minutes from the center of town.  The hotel looked almost new and is on a golf course.

Hotel    Hotel Birdy

775 rue Jean Rene Gauthier

What we liked about the hotel:  everything was new; our room had a good view of the golf course; breakfast was good; parking at the hotel was easy.

What we didn’t like:  location – it was necessary to drive to Aix and finding parking was a nightmare.  There was nothing else right around the hotel, so it was necessary to drive to get to a restaurant or anything else.

I asked the front desk for recommendations in Aix.  They gave us a map and pointed out the best public parking and an area for restaurants.  Waze took us the back roads to Aix.  Once in Aix, the parking lot was an experience.  Four levels below ground.  We had to circle around the lot several times before finding a spot.  Then the spot was so narrow that Kathy had to get out of the car and guide me as I backed in.  I took a phone photo of our parking spot on level -3 and then we elevatored to street level.  We were surprised to see the hustle and bustle.  People everywhere, restaurants everywhere.  We looked at menus along the street until we found an Italian place named Mirabeau.  Service was slow but there were people to watch.  We ordered veal and spaghetti.  I had a glass of white wine and Kathy chose red.  Pocket was with us and she laid on the concrete under our table.  The food was great.  There were a lot of younger people  around us who were there for drinks only.  After dinner, we had no problem finding our car and driving back to the Birdy.

Breakfast at the Birdy is in a dining room that looks out onto the golf course.  It was cool in the morning, so we ate inside.  We tried to find a cooking class on-line, but none were available.

We headed back to Aix for the day.  Here is my summary of Aix:  lots of restaurants, lots of shops, not much parking.  Our “usual” parking lot was full, so we had to search for somewhere else.  We found a public parking lot in another part of town and had to park on the 11th level, on the roof.  If last night’s spot was tight, this one was even tighter.  Kathy deserves an award for guiding me into this one.  When we got to the elevator, we found a sign that said “ne marche pas.”  At least we would be walking down.

We stopped at an outdoor café and sat at a vacant table.  The people next to us were Americans who were in Aix for only a few hours as a side trip from their cruise.  We sat there for a while but the waiter ignored us, so we left.

We thoroughly walked though Aix.  Kathy finally found a shop she liked named Souleiado.  She bought a dress, shoes and a necklace.  I bought a shirt.  By the time we got back to the parking garage, there were almost no cars left.  This made exiting much easier,

The following morning we ate breakfast at 8:00.  It had rained a little the night before.  The three of us got in our SUV and headed out to explore the Luberon villages.  We went to Gordes, Bonnieux and Cucuron.  Gordes was by far the best.  In fact, Gordes may be one of the prettiest and most idyllic places in the world.  Finding a place to park was challenging because everyone must know how picturesque it is.  It appears to be accessible only be car.  After parking we walked down a hill (everything in the town is either up or down) and had lunch at Le Jardin.  As the name suggests, we ate in a garden.  The food was great and so was the wine.  The houses in this area are breathtaking.  Based on the information in front of a real estate office, it costs a pretty penny to live there.  We followed a stone path down from the center of town to get a better view from below.  You have to see it in person to believe it.  How did they build this town?  But then we had to walk back up which was much more challenging than walking down.  Pocket did the whole thing with us. The town is a delight to walk around.  After Gordes we drove to two other towns, but they were not noteworthy.  On the way back to the hotel we stopped in a town named Lourmarin to buy some bottled water. This town was having a flea market so we walked through the flea market and then on into the town and enjoyed our unplanned stop.

We arrived back at the hotel at 19:00.  Waze is still working good.  When Kathy said she was hungry I asked the front desk for a recommendation, other than Aix.  She pointed us in the direction of Marseille.  With much difficulty we found a McDonalds.  Doing the drive through in French was challenging, to say the least.  €30 for two hamburger meals at McDonalds.  Yuck and ouch!

After eating breakfast at the hotel, we loaded the car and headed to Saint Tropez.  It was quite a drive to Saint Tropez with hairpin curves, switchbacks and over mountainous terrain.  Traffic was often slowed by bicyclists.  I found a dog friendly beach on the internet and that was our destination but when we got there, the parking lots were full, and a long line of cars were in the same predicament.  So, we decided to skip the beach and head to the town of Saint Tropez.

We found a public parking lot a short walk from the harbor.  Café Paris was right on the water, looked nice and they would let Pocket in.  We had the risotto special – green risotto with asparagus.  It was excellent and we shared a half bottle of rose.   The Saint Tropez tour boat was close to the restaurant so after lunch we bought tickets for the boat tour.  It was great to see Saint Tropez from the Mediterranean Sea.  There are so many amazing homes for the super-rich.  Also, many huge yachts were anchored off shore.  One of the guides told us that the rich take helicopters to their homes in the Les Parcs area.  Must be tough.  It was a very pleasant one-hour ride.

Before going there, I thought Saint Tropez would be yachts, Rolls-Royces and movie stars.  We saw a lot of yachts, several Rolls-Royces and the home of Bridget Bardot.  So, check, check and check.  Saint Tropez is a nice size village – big enough for good food and good shopping but small enough to get around easily.  Kathy wanted to go shopping by herself, so Pocket and I walked around town and pretended that we were rich.  Kathy ended up buying a dress and espadrilles.  We made our way back to the car and headed to Cannes.  The road was very curvy and mostly narrow until we got to the autoroute.

Note:  it is easy to spend too much on meals if you have wine or spritz with every meal.


Cannes is a bigger city than I expected.  We had some difficulty finding the hotel but found out that it is necessary to enter the hotel from the street behind the address of the hotel.

Hotel    Le Canberra

120 rue Antibes

What we liked about the hotel:  everything

What we didn’t like:  nothing

Le Canberra was one of our favorite hotels.  Everything about it was first class. We were able to park our car in private parking spot with our name on it.   Our room overlooked the pool and the garden area.  The location was really perfect.  Two blocks from the Mediterranean, good food in any direction and good shopping right out the front door.

It was time to restock Pocket’s food and we found a pet supply store only a block from the hotel.  The lady in the store was very helpful recommending the right food for an older dog.  We also bought Pocket a new tartan harness.

Our room was so comfortable that we slept late.  We were finally getting adjusted to the time difference.  We never ate any meals at Le Canberra because there were so many other options around.  There was a Galleries Lafayette in town and Kathy wanted to return a blouse that she purchased in Strasbourg.  Walking down rue Antibes was like walking down 5th Avenue in New York – great shopping everywhere.  I found a linen shirt I liked and bought it.  There was a linen blazer that I liked but the fit wasn’t right, so I passed on that. At Galleries Lafayette we found out that returning the blouse would mess up our VAT reimbursement, so Kathy decided to keep the blouse.  By this time Pocket was looking tired so I took her back to the hotel to rest.  Then Kathy and I headed out to find lunch.

There are restaurants all along the beach, right on the Mediterranean.  The problem is that everything on the menu is priced at least €15 more per person than two blocks inland. We decided not to pay the extra €30 for the view during lunch and found a place not far from our hotel.  Kathy had a Caesar salad and I had a burger.  Both were very good.

We walked to the Palais des Festivals, where they have the red carpet for the Cannes Film Festival.  We did the selfie thing near the red carpet.  There were movie star hand prints in cement in front of the building.  We went into the gift shop but didn’t see anything we couldn’t live without.  From there we walked along the Med for a long way.  When we got tired, we stopped at a delightful outdoor café and had apricot flans and café au lait.

Later, at the hotel, we were resting from our long walk, we heard a crash in the closet.  I checked on it and found the closet light hanging from its wire.  I called the front desk and someone came within 5 minutes and fixed it.

Around 19:30, I was hungry so we walked to rue Hoche where there are a ton of restaurants.  We found a place and decided to eat inside because it looked like it might rain.  I had mussels and pasta and Kathy had risotto.  Another bottle of rose.  And we finished with café au lait.  It sprinkled lightly on the way back to the hotel, but no big deal.

Kathy took Pocket out for an early morning walk to the sea.  Going out the back door of the hotel, one left turn and one right turn and the Med is only two blocks away.  After they got back, I threw on some clothes and Kathy and I walked to a boulangerie a block down the street.  We ordered the petit dejeuner continental, which was a café au lait, orange juice, a small baguette with jam and a pastry.  Kathy always chooses a pain au chocolat.  I ordered the pain au raisin.  I love pain au raisin.  €13 each and we couldn’t finish everything.

We walked back to the hotel, and it was my turn to take Pocket for a walk to the sea. Cannes washes their streets and sidewalks every morning.  The day always starts clean and fresh.   A large cruise ship was anchored offshore, and a few sail boats bobbed in the water.   I took several photos that I thought would make good paintings.  Very reluctantly, we packed up so we could head to Nice.


Hotel    La Malmaison

48 Boulevard Victor Hugo

What we liked about the hotel:  location – it was close to the Med and to the old city.

What we didn’t like about the hotel:  No spot outside the hotel to park your car while unloading and loading; carrying all your belongings up and down stairs from the reception desk to street level.  The hotel could/should be updated.

Finding the hotel was easy.  But there was no place in front of the hotel to unload.  I found a spot on a side street.  Kathy and Pocket stayed in the car while I went into the hotel to check in.  When you go into the front door of the hotel, you must climb a flight of stairs to get to the front desk.  Our room wouldn’t be ready for another two hours.  They will store our luggage but there was no one to help carry the luggage from the car and up the stairs.  I also found out that the closest parking was four blocks away in a public garage.  So, I unloaded the car and carried out stuff up to the reception area.  Kathy and Pocket waited in the lobby while I parked the car.  Because of the one-way streets, it was not easy getting to the parking garage.  La Malmaison was okay.  Our room was okay.  The breakfast was okay.

We asked the lady at the front desk about going to Monaco and dog sitting.  She said there was no one that would sit for Pocket and we did not want to take her to a kennel.  I don’t know how hard she really tried.  It would be another couple of hours until our room was ready so we walked to the Med to get some lunch.  We found a table with a good view of the sea and ordered salads.  It was 15:00 when we got back to the hotel and our room was ready.

The hotel wanted an arm and a leg to do laundry, so Kathy found a laundromat nearby to wash some clothes for the next few days.

Pocket had a little upset stomach (probably because of the traveling and food changes).  There was a pharmacy a block down the street.  With my French and the pharmacist’s English we discussed the symptoms and treatment.  I bought some tablets for €13 and the problem was cured.  (no vet, no prescription – easy peasy).

That evening we walked to a Greek restaurant for dinner.  Greek was a food group that we hadn’t had yet.  The food was good and the baklava was a good ending to the dinner.  We returned to the hotel and watched the movie Greenland until midnight.

The next morning Kathy took Pocket for a walk to the Med.  She took a cute photo of Pocket sitting in a beach chair.  After eating breakfast at the hotel, we walked to Vieux Nice.  The area has quaint old buildings and lots of shops and restaurants.  Then we walked to the top of castle hill.  It was quite a walk but Kathy, Pocket and I did it.  It was a beautifully clear day so the view was tremendous.  As arduous as the trek was, it was worth it to see the waterfall, the waters of the Med and the view of Nice from above.  There was also a great view of planes landing at the Nice airport.

Back at the hotel I checked train times from Nice to Monaco.  Kathy and I walked to the Nice Ville train station, which was .5 km from the hotel.  I bought train tickets but by the time we found the right platform, the train was already gone.  So we had to wait 30 minutes for the next train.  The train was crowded but we found seats.  Monaco Monte Carlo is the sixth stop.  Even with five stops before Monaco, the trip is only 20 minutes. No one ever came by to see if we had tickets.  When we got off the train in Monaco, we followed the “Casino” signs to the casino.  Getting from the train station to the casino is a little complicated so it is important to follow the signs.  The walk was about 15 minutes.  Monaco was getting ready for the Grand Prix so grandstands and protective fencing were set up along the road. The harbor was full of large yachts and some smaller boats, who must have felt out of place.   When we got to the area around the casino, there was every high-end shop you could think of.  Rolls-Royces and Porches were parked in front of the casino.  Entry into the casino was €17 per person but you get a €10 per person coupon that can be used in the casino for gambling, food or beverages.  The casino was not busy.  There were at least three casino employees for every guest.  Kathy and I walked around to get a feel for the place.  The casino is ritzy, but I have seen places just as opulent in Las Vegas.  The private gambling rooms were blocked off and guarded.  Table minimums were not too high, between €5 and €20.  I like craps but no one was playing craps.  We watched several men playing roulette.  We saw one guy lose several thousand euors in just a few minutes.  I bought two gin and tonics – only €46.  I was glad I had those coupons.  The barman recommended a Spanish gin called Gin Mare.  It was very good. We caught the last train from Monaco back to Nice.

When we exited the Nice Ville train station, it was raining lightly, so we took a taxi to the hotel.  We decided to eat at a restaurant called Nespo that is next to our hotel.  Since risotto with asparagus was now one of our favorite dishes, we ordered that.  A large party was seated at a table next to ours.  It turned out that the footballer Nicolas Pepe was there.  Our server told us that League 1 players eat there frequently.  Pepe even had his own security guard.

Our bed felt good after 21,000 steps that day.

We had our final breakfast in Nice, although we weren’t very hungry.  Kathy and I carried our luggage down to street level because the hotel does not provide any help.  Then Pocket and I walked to the parking garage to get our car.  Kathy waited at the curb in front of the hotel with our luggage.  I had to stop in the street to load the car.  Waze took us through many winding streets in Nice until we hit the autoroute.

We hit patches of light rain although the rain around Marseille was much heavier.  All in all, the drive to Carcassonne was smooth.


Finding the Ibis Style hotel was easy.

Hotel    Ibis Style

2 rue Darius Mihaud

What we liked about the hotel: Hotel is modern. Proximity to the Cite was great. Plenty of parking.

What we didn’t like:  it was okay for a one-night stay.

Ibis Style is a very family-oriented hotel.  It looked new and is located only .5 km from the Cite.  There were USB connections on both sides of the bed, several others in the room and many in the restaurant.  It was basically comfortable.

After checking in, it rained hard for a few minutes and the temperature dropped.  We checked the weather forecast and it was forecasted to rain all the next day.  So instead of touring the next day, we decided to tour the Cite that afternoon.  I also checked out restaurants in the area.  I was shocked to see all the Michelin-starred restaurants.  Carcassonne didn’t look like the kind of place where you would find a lot of Michelin restaurants.  But there were several.

It was only a two-minute drive to the Cite.  When we got there, the parking lot was almost empty.  Evidently the rain had driven everyone away.  And since the temperature had dropped, we bundled up in our coats, scarves and hats.  I downloaded the Carcassonne Cite tour from VoiceMap.  Carcassonne is the largest, best preserved Medieval town in Europe.  Walking across the moat (now dry) and through the double gates, you get a feel for how unsure life was 800 years ago.  The narrow streets suggest lack of privacy, on one hand, and yet the need to cooperate and coexist on the other.  We walked through the mostly deserted streets for an hour.  I read that Carcassonne had good cassoulet.  We stopped at Café Lucien and ate there.  The cassoulet three-couse meal was €14 per person.

Our next hotel was in Bordeaux and I decided to drive through St. Emilion on the way.  The route took us around the outskirts of Toulouse.  As we neared St. Emillion we passed acres and acres of vineyards.  St. Emillion is a cute little town surrounded by huge wineries.  We parked along some narrow road and walked into town to begin wine tasting.  At one stop, La Grande Cave, the pours were very generous and the wines were very good.  I ordered six bottles to be shipped back to the states; two each of Angelots de Gracia, La Serre and Milens.  We walked down  cobblestone steps to a plaza with restaurants.  We decided to share a meat and cheeses platter at Amelia Canta.  With wine, of course.  One of the cheeses called Fourme d’Amber was particularly good.  As we were walking back to the car, we spotted the mini-train tour ride.  We bought tickets for the last ride of the day.  The mini-train never disappoints.  You learn a lot of history and see things you probably would have missed.  The St. Emillion train travels along narrow roads back into the vineyards.  The ride lasted 40 minutes and was worth the time.

We found out that you can’t pop into a winery and take a tour like in California.  Tours must be reserved in advance, so we made a reservation for the following day.  Some tours require reservations weeks in advance.


It was 40 minutes from St. Emillion to our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn.

Hotel    Hilton Garden Inn

17 Allee de Rio

What we liked about the hotel:  on-site parking; the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; room and bathroom are modern.

What we didn’t like:  location

The Bordeaux Hilton Garden Inn is more like a Hilton than a Garden Inn that you would find in the States.  This is a very nice, modern hotel.  The staff is professional and has been well-trained.

To be honest, I was disappointed with Bordeaux.  I have the impression that Bordeaux is a neglected city.  All the other places we have been, whether big city or small town, are clean and well-cared for.  You get the feeling there is a lot of civic pride.  Not so much in Bordeaux.  Many buildings are dirty and run down and we saw a lot of trash and graffiti.  Too bad.

After checking in and getting our stuff to the room, we decided to go to the hotel restaurant for dessert.  Kathy had coffee with her lemon tart and I had brandy with a tropical fruit panna cotta.  That was the day.

Breakfast at the Hilton was plentiful and excellent.  This was the best breakfast buffet of our trip.

We headed back to St. Emillion for our wine tour. We found good parking in a public lot and walked through town to Villemaurine.  The tour of Villemaurine was very enjoyable.  We toured the vineyard, and our guide told us about the soil and the age of the vines.  She demonstrated how the vines are trimmed each year to maximize grape production.  Then we watched a video of harvesting and getting the grapes ready for processing.  She explained how the barrels are hand made using French oak.  The part I enjoyed the most was going down into the quarry where the barrels are stored for aging.  The quarrying process was fascinating and must have been back breaking work.  Then we went to the wine tasting room, one of my favorite activities.  After tasting several wines, I made another wine purchase.  After a quick lunch in St. Emillion, we headed back to Bordeaux.

According to Trip Advisor, two of the top things to see in Bordeaux are the Place de la Bourse and the Water Mirror.  These are located 2.4 km from the hotel, so we walked.  The Water Mirror is a very shallow plaza that fills and drains with water during the day.  It must be very popular in the summer.  The walk to Place de la Bourse and seeing the area did not change my opinion of Bordeaux.

For our last breakfast at the Hilton, we made waffles. We packed and left the hotel at 10:00 for our 11:00 veterinary appointment.   In order to take Pocket to the UK, it is necessary for her to receive a worm treatment within five days of entry into the UK.  I had made an appointment for a vet in Bordeaux when we were in Amboise.  According to the online reviews, the veterinary practice Clinique Veterinaire (166 Cours du Marechal Galleini) understood the UK requirements.  We met with Dr. Watier and she was excellent.  Pocket received a checkup and the worm treatment.  This was recorded in Pocket’s pet passport.  Dr. Wattier’s English was excellent and she suggested that we register Pocket in the French pet database.  The charge was only €44.

We weaved our way out of Bordeaux and headed north to Courtils near Mont Saint Michel.  We had to drive past Cognac because we didn’t have time to stop.  By this time, we were listening to The Queen’s Necklace by Alexander Dumas.

Mont Saint Miche. / Courtils

We arrive at our hotel, Manoir de la Roche, around 18:00.  The hotel was built as a mansion in the 19th century.  It sits among the fields and farms and has a great view of Mont Saint Michel in the distance.

Hotel    Manoir de la Roche

Courtils France

What we liked about the hotel:  proximity to Mont Saint Michel; dinner was good; parking.

What we didn’t like:  Our room was on the third floor – there was no elevator, the steps were narrow and there was no help carrying the luggage.; our room was small, the bed was small, and the shower leaked.

Several guests at the hotel had dogs, the most we have seen at any hotel on our trip.  Before dinner, Kathy, Pocket and I took a walk down a dirt lane to see the cattle, sheep and Mont Saint Michel.  We took several pics.  As soon as the sun starts to go down, it gets very chilly.

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant.  They didn’t have either of the wines we wanted.  The special was a three-course meal for €37.  I had oysters, grilled fish and cheese fondue for dessert.  The entrée was nine huge oysters.  The fish was good and the fondue was okay.  We had a window table with a geat view of Mont Saint Michel.  Sleeping was hit and miss because we were not used to such a small bed.

In the morning, we discovered the shower leaked and we had to build a dam with towels.  The buffet breakfast was much simpler than other hotels.  Carrying our luggage down the spiral staircase was a chore.  The drive from the hotel to the parking lot at Mont Saint Michel was only 10 minutes.  We arrived at 9:30 so we were able to park up front near the free shuttle buses.  It is possible to walk across a bridge to MSM; the distance is a little over a mile and takes 30 minutes.  We went to the visitors center and discovered that MSM has a kennel .  There was one private kennel left and we decided to have Pocket stay there.  It turns out that this was absolutely the right decision.  When we got to the kennel the attendant said she could not get the door open and she would call maintenance.  I saw that the latch was broken but I was able to open it and put Pocket in.  Another problem solved.

We walked back to the shuttle bus area and, unfortunately, the school buses had arrived and the line for the shuttles was lengthy.  So, we decided to walk.  The day was sunny but there was a cool breeze coming off the water. The walk, nonetheless, was enjoyable.  It was low tide and a number of kids were already on the beach.

When we got to MSM, the main street was packed.  This was a weekday in May.  I can’t imagine what this place would be like in the summer.  Pocket would not have done well here.  Kathy purchased abbey access tickets for us.  Main street slants upwards.  Then there are steps.  It is a challenging walk to get to the abbey entrance.  We bypassed several groups that had congregated at the entrance.  This is yet another “how did they build this” building.  Our self-guided tour took about an hour.  I imagine a real, professional tour would take over two hours.  We checked the restaurants on the way down and they were all packed.  Having been on our feet for the last 3 hours, we took the shuttle back to the parking lot.  Pocket was happy to see us. It was time to head on down the road.

The next destination was Giverny to see Monet’s garden.  Late afternoon is the time to go because all the tour buses and school groups were gone.  Visiting Giverny has been a goal of mine for a long time.  We toured Monet’s house first.  It has been restored to look like it had been when Monet lived there.  There were a number of Monet reproductions hanging on the wall.  The garden was amazing, beautiful and breathtaking.  Spring flowers were in bloom everywhere.  We went to the lily pond and the Japanese bridge.  Everywhere you turn there is another photo or painting opportunity.  I purchased a book and a hat at the gift shop.  Do I really need another ball cap?  Kathy purchased souvenirs for the granddaughters.  There would never be enough time to spend here.


Our next hotel was 15 minutes from Giverny in the town of Pacy-sur-Eure.

Hotel    Bel Ami

1 rue Edoard Isambard

What we liked about the hotel:  hotel is modern; plenty of parking; good view of the garden from the bedroom; view of the river from the bathroom; restaurant was good; location.

What we didn’t like:  no elevator and we had to carry our luggage up another winding staircase.

Pacy-sur-Eure was a beautiful little town and Bel Ami was a wonderful hotel.  We had dinner at the hotel.  The food was very good.  The restaurant was crowded.

The bed was a comfortable and we enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  We had breakfast at the hotel.  The buffet was simple and we were the only people there.  On the way out of town we stopped at Carrefour to get dog food.  This was the day we would turn in the car at CDG and catch two trains to Calais.

We made good progress until we got to Paris and then it was bumper to bumper.  I didn’t have a chance to fill up the car before returning it.  This was one time when Waze didn’t provide good directions to return the car.  We were at Terminal 2 before seeing any Rental Car Return signs.  When we got to Hertz, no one was there to check us in.  I had to go into the terminal to the Hertz counter only to find out all I had to do was put the keys into a drop box.

We drove 2000 miles in France and only saw one accident and the number of cars we saw broken down by the side of the road, I could count on one hand.

Kathy found a trolley so we could transport our luggage more easily.  An airport employee showed us the way to the train station.  I purchased tickets from CDG to Lille and then Lille to Calais.  When we got to the station, we found out that the CDG to Lille train was going to be 30 minutes late.  There was only 20 minutes between the CDG to Lille train and the Lillbe to Calais train so I was concerned about the next leg.  When the departing platform was announced everyone rushed to get in line.  We abandoned the trolley and carried our stuff down the escalator.  Since we had assigned seats we had to find the proper place on the platform to get on our assigned car.  When the train arrived, I got on first so I could pull the luggage onto the car.  We got the luggage situated in the luggage compartment and then walked down the aisle to find our seats.  It would have been 3 hours and 20 minutes to drive from Paris to Lille by car but the train made it in only 50 minutes.  We got off the train when everyone else got off the train, thinking this must be Lille.  We manhandled the luggage off the train, across a bridge and into the station.  A group of people were standing in front of the destination display board.  Our train from Lille to Calais was also running 30 minutes late so we were going to be okay.

We did not have assigned seats for the train to Calais so we climbed on the first car, put most of our luggage in the storage area and sat close by.  This train was very crowded with people standing in the space between cars.  When we arrived in Calais, we thought that we would be able to walk to the hotel, but that was not the case.  With the help of a young man, we found the taxi stand.  A young couple with two little girls were already there.  They spoke no English.  I was able to tell them that we needed a taxi and he made the call for me.  The little girls loved Pocket.  That was a good distraction because it took 40 minutes for the first taxi to arrive.  I convinced the taxi driver to come back for Kathy, Pocket and me after dropping off the other family.  I wasn’t sure we would ever see him again but 30 minutes later he was back and took us to our hotel.


Hotel:  B&B Hotel Calais

Place Cantorbery

What we liked about the hotel:  proximity to the Chunnel.

What we didn’t like:    room size, bed size.

I chose the B&B Hotel because it was close to the entrance of the Chunnel.  There were several buildings.  I chose the 3-star option so we were in Building 3.  It was a basic hotel.  The room was small and the bed was small but it would be okay for one night.  We ate dinner at the hotel, really our only option.  We had basic ravioli and basic lemon pie.

Pocket woke us up at 6:30, as usual.  While she ate in our room, Kathy and I had the basic buffet from the hotel.  At least everything was fresh.

When we got to the lobby, our driver was already there.  He was experienced getting pets to the UK and knew the UK pet control procedure.  Our paperwork was in order so we proceeded to the queue for the train.  Our driver drove onto the train and we stayed in the car during the trip.


Our flight from Edinburgh landed at CDG at 9:00.  I checked on getting from CDG to our hotel in Paris, near Notre Dame.  We could take the RER from Terminal 2 to Saint-Michel Notre Dame and then carry our luggage to the hotel or find a cab.  With that in mind and having woken up at 4:00 to catch the plane, I arranged for a private car to pick us up at the airport and take us to the hotel.

Hotel    Hotel les Rives de Notre Dame

15 Quai Saint Michel

What we liked about the hotel:  location; very comfortable and well maintained; very helpful staff; breakfast buffet was great.

What we didn’t like:  it would have been nice to have more outlets for charging our electronicals.

Hotel les Rives de Notre Dame is located on the Left Bank (right on the Seine) one block from Notre Dame.  What a great find! There are only 10 rooms in the hotel.   Our room, #7, looked out onto the Seine.   The room was modern with a king-size bed.  There was a table with chairs.  The bathroom was modern.

Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived because we had taken such an early flight.  So we left our luggage at the hotel and headed out to explore.

Note: Kathy and I have been to Paris several times before and had done many of the typical tourist things twice, so we wanted different experiences.

I downloaded three Annie Sargent audio tours:  the Latin Quarter, Saint Germain des Pres and Le Marais.  The audio tours are excellent.  The audio tours allowed us to move at our own pace.

In addition to the audio tours, we also:

We are fans of the TV series Emily in Paris. Emily’s apartment and Gabriel’s restaurant are located only a couple of blocks from the Pantheon.  Kathy wanted pics of her in front of each.

I like the movie Midnight in Paris. I had my pic taken on the steps by rue Montagne Sainte-Genevieve.

Kathy and I liked the Luxembourg Gardens.  We found a table and chairs, sat there and enjoyed the Gardens with thousands of other Parisens.

At sunset, we walked to the Pont des Arts so we could see the Eiffel Tower at night.

We took the hop on / hop off boat.  This is a great way to get around to the Louvre,  the Orsay and the Eiffel Tower.

Taking Pocket for her morning walk along the Seine is memorable.

We walked around Notre Dame to see the ongoing restoration.

Kathy went to Shakespeare & Co., which wasn’t far from our hotel.  I think she was a little disappointed.

We didn’t eat at any place memorable.  Paris has 44,000 restaurants so there is something for everyone.  We ate outside whenever we could.  Everyone speaks English.

The night before our flight to the US, we changed hotels.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express near CDG.  This hotel is new and close to the airport.  The hotel is a solid 3-star hotel and the restaurant was a solid 0-star – it was awful.

The next morning, we took a taxi to the airport.  Our flight left on time at 9:00.

We had the adventure of a lifetime.

Looking Back

Kathy and I took 490,174 steps and walked 167.7 miles on our trip.  Pocket probably took more steps because she has four legs and her legs are shorter.  The most steps we took on any day was 23,785 and the fewest was 4,124.

Favorite restaurants in France

La Forchette – Avignon

Le Gurlerhoft – Strasborg

Choiseul – Amboise

Favorite activities in France

Monet’s garden in Giverny

Boat ride off Saint Tropez

Visiting Gordes

Chateau du Clos Luce

Mont Saint Michel (Kathy)





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Category: Family Travel